Ronald C. Breslow
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Ronald Breslow begins the interview with a discussion of his family life and background. He grew up in Rahway, New Jersey, the son of a physician. Max Tishler, a family friend, helped to pique Breslow's interest in chemistry. In high school, Breslow entered the Westinghouse Science Contest, which enabled him to meet like-minded teenagers. Breslow entered Harvard University, graduating with his AB in chemistry in 1952. He discusses chemistry courses taught by Louis Fieser and Paul Bartlett, and his research with Gilbert Stork on the structure of cedrene. Breslow received a master's degree in medical science from Harvard in 1953, and he discusses the uniqueness of the program. He continued his graduate studies with R. B. Woodward, earning his PhD in chemistry in 1955 for his work on magnamycin. He discusses his graduate school colleagues and his post-doc with Alexander Todd. In 1956, Breslow joined the faculty of Columbia University, where he has worked on a variety of subjects, including thiamine, cyclopropenyl cation, cyclodextrins, and electron transfer. He discusses his colleagues, his collaborations, and his cancer research. Breslow further addresses changes at Columbia, Columbia's chemistry department, and his involvement in the American Chemical Society. He concludes with a discussion of his consulting activities and reflections on his family and career.
|1953||Harvard University||MA||Medical Sciences|
University of Cambridge
Award in Pure Chemistry, American Chemical Society
Fresenius Award, Phi Lambda Upsilon
Baekeland Medal, American Chemical Society
Mark van Doren Medal, Columbia University
Centenary Medal, British Chemical Society
Harrison Howe Award, Rochester Section, American Chemical Society
Remsen Prize, Maryland Section, American Chemical Society
Roussel Prize in Steroids, Roussel-UCLAF, France
James Flack Norris Prize in Physical Organic Chemistry, American Chemical Society
T. W. Richards Medal, Northeast Section, American Chemical Society
Arthur C. Cope Award, American Chemical Society
Kenner Award, University of Liverpool
Nichols Medal, New York Section, American Chemical Society
Award in Chemical Sciences, National Academy of Sciences
Allan Day Award, Philadelphia Organic Chemists Club
Paracelsus Award and Medal, Swiss Chemical Society
National Medal of Science
Priestley Medal, American Chemical Society
Perkin Medal, Society of Chemical Industry
Table of Contents
Growing up in Rahway. Father's medical practice. Max Tishler. Growing interest in chemistry. Support of mother. Relationship with sister. Westinghouse Science Contest.
Decision to attend Harvard. Louis Fieser. Chemistry courses. Paul Bartlett. Research with Gilbert Stork. Work on structure of cedrene. Entering graduate studies in medical science. Decision to get PhD in chemistry. Research with R. B. Woodward. Structure elucidation of magnamycin. Edwin Ullman. Colleagues. Andrew Kende. Ed Wasserman. Post-doc with Alexander Todd. DNA research.
Meeting wife (Esther). Wife's work on base pairing. Children.
Job offer from Columbia. Research on thiamine. Physical organic work. Cyclopropenyl anion. Collaborations. Free radical catalysis. Cyclodextrins. Cytochrome P450. Hydrophobicity. Electron transfer. Work with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Research Institute. Collaboration with National Cancer Institute.
Controversy over Barnard College. Role in bringing William McGill to Columbia. Changing emphasis to undergraduates. Chairmanship of chemistry department. Improving facilities. Colleagues. Importance of teaching. Publishing.
Becoming president. Chemistry Today and Tomorrow. Importance of public understanding.
Consulting. DuPont. Schering-Plough. Synvar. General Motors. Board of The Rockefeller University. Future of chemical sciences. Hobbies. National Medal of Science. Reflections on research. Relationship with students. Family. Future of physical organic chemistry.
About the Interviewer
Leon Gortler is a professor of chemistry at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. He holds AB and MS degrees from the University of Chicago and a PhD from Harvard University where he worked with Paul Bartlett. He has long been interested in the history of chemistry, in particular the development of physical organic chemistry, and has conducted over fifty oral and videotaped interviews with major American chemists.